Ratua, Vanuatu. My new heaven on earth.August 11th, 2010
So, I think we might have found our new favorite place. The bad news is it’s hard to get to. That’s probably the good news too, so it might have a chance to stay pristine. Ratua island, off of Espiritu Santo in Vanuatu, the southern most island in the South Pacific nation, is pure bliss. Mind you, about halfway through the journey there I began to think that I never wanted to leave home again. Ever. Here’s what it takes to get there from San Francisco. You have to fly to LA and get an overnight flight to Fiji. (We spent a week in Fiji, which was a most excellent idea.) From Nadi, Fiji, it only takes an hour to get to Port Vila, the capital of Vanuatu, but then you have to take another flight to Santo, drive half-an-hour to a boat dock then take a 40-minute boat ride to Ratua, muttering bad words under your breath all the way. By the way, Air Vanuatu really, really sucks. Their planes are fine, but get this: I had booked and paid for the flights and then just before we left I get an email telling me that oops, there really wasn’t room for all of the family on that flight, but the good news was they had booked Greg and me on the last flight of the day and the two kids (10 and 12) on the early morning one the next day. Oh yes, they did. In the end it was fine as Greg ended up staying at a lovely resort called Eratap with the girls and I got a hall pass to go out to Ratua by myself for one evening, which was just fine by me. And when I finally got there, this is what I saw (but by night).
Ratua was built by a intimidatingly chic and well-heeled French couple who worked hard, made piles of dosh, bought a huge yacht with crew and sailed around the world for a year with their two kids looking for the best island to buy. They fell in love with Vanuatu and found Ratua, which is a 60-something acre island with nothing else on it but the resort and coconut trees. They have spared no expense, even though the resort is very affordable if you ask me. At least for what you are getting. Right now it is $220 per person per night, but that includes food and non-booze drink and transport from airport. I think they will put the price up later in the year, however.
They salvaged 200-year-old carved wooden houses from Sumatra and Bali and had them cleaned and refurbished. The result is rustic stunning. And you actually feel like you are living in a posh 200-year-old village. We rode and swam their fabulous horses over to a neighboring island and through the jungle. We went snorkeling on their gorgeous reefs. We kayaked. And Indigo and I went to Santo one day and did the Millennium Cave, which nearly killed me but that’s another story. Now I’ll shut up and let the pictures do the talking.
Stephanie Caillaud, Ratua’s horse trainer and an ex-Lippizaner rider swimming the horse home after dark (we were behind her, but her posture is better than ours)
The girls learning to drive on the runway (yes, soon there will be direct, private flights from Port Vila and no need for Air Vanuatu. Hooray!)
I threw this in because that is me under siege by the dancers from a neighboring island. I have a fixed rictus grin on my face because yes, that was a very real spear that I looked down to find at my chest and a very real axe at my head and those never-used-deodorant-ever bodies were very, very sweaty after their highly energetic (and FANTASTIC) dancing.
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